Jury Hears of “Varsity Blues” Ringleader Tricking a Water Polo Recruit

Water Polo Team

Partner Kori Bell cross-examined a witness who graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) and states she was completely unaware of her former college counselor William “Rick” Singer’s admissions scheme, Law360 reported.

April 1 — USC Alumna and Athlete Vanessa Feiwell

23-year-old Vanessa Feiwell, a 2020 USC graduate, explained to the jury that Mr. Singer “told her that he could get her into the elite Los Angeles school as a manager for the water polo team,” Law360 reported. Kori and partner Stephen G. Larson are defending former USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic at trial against allegations that he accepted bribes from Mr. Singer for securing admission spots for applicants from wealthy families—Ms. Feiwell included, the prosecution says.

“But [Mr.] Singer, behind [Ms.] Feiwell’s back, cooked up a player resume pitching her as a powerhouse water polo goalie, the jury heard,” Law360 explained. Ms. Feiwell stated, “He always bragged about everyone he worked with . . . You had no idea there was some kind of scam going on.”

During her cross-examination, Kori “asked if [Ms.] Feiwell now felt that [Mr.] Singer was ‘kind of brainwashing you,'” to which Ms. Feiwell responded, “For sure, yes,” according to Law360.

Kori then asked Ms. Feiwell “how the news hit her when she learned that [Mr.] Singer was running a scam and that she was a part of it.”

“It was heartbreaking, honestly,” Ms. Feiwell said. “I trusted him, and I worked with him every week. It was hard to believe that he would do that.”

Although Ms. Feiwell’s parents paid [Mr.] Singer $50,000 to get their daughter recruited to USC as a water polo player, Law360 noted, “a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office . . . could not say why [Ms.] Feiwell’s parents were not among the many charged in the sprawling ‘Varsity Blues’ case.”

Mr. Vavic asserts that he himself was “tricked” by Mr. Singer and, as Law360 reported from Stephen’s opening statement to the jury on March 10, “[Mr.] Singer purposefully withheld the illegal aspects of the plot from [Mr.] Vavic . . . The former coach had no part in creating the phony resumes . . . and [Mr.] Singer convinced [Mr.] Vavic that every athlete he recommended for admission actually played water polo.”

Ms. Feiwell’s testimony ended a tense week in court with multiple “flare-ups between attorneys for the government and the defense,” as Stephen and U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani agreed that Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen E. Frank was “bullying” the court and Kori accused Mr. Frank of “gender-based bullying,” Law360 summarized.

The prosecution is now expected to rest on April 4, at which point Stephen and Kori will present their case for the defense.

Read the full article by Brian Dowling of Law360 covering Ms. Feiwell’s testimony here (subscription required).


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